STILLWATER, Okla. —
Vacant storefronts dotted the downtown Stillwater landscape just five years ago and shoppers were nearly as hard to find as retailers and restaurants, Stillwater’s Economic Director for Consumer Business Development Angela McLaughlin said.
Today, Stillwater’s downtown thrives thanks to Business Improvement District No. 1, which was created in August 2007. McLaughlin served as BID coordinator from its inception until mid-August when she moved to a new post in city government. The city promoted Amy Jo Frazier from park and rec department aquatics, concessions and events coordinator to BID coordinator at the same time.
Last week, McLaughlin reviewed the district’s path and Frazier charted a new course during the Stillwater Industrial and Redevelopment Authority meeting.
The BID board created three goals in 2008, McLaughlin said. The board wanted to make downtown Stillwater a popular place, improve the business climate and transform the landscape and environment.
“... I can honestly say we met these goals and exceeded expectations,” she said.
Businesses have used economic incentive programs established by the city of Stillwater or the BID to revitalize downtown, she said.
Stillwater Summit Co., 115 W. 7th Avenue, is the latest to seek a retail incentive, City Manager Dan Galloway said. The outdoor clothing and supply retailer will expand its downtown store.
The incentive lets the city rebate 1 percent of the city’s 3.5 percent sales tax to Stillwater Summit Co. The 1-percent rebate is based on additional revenue generated by the expansion. It will be rebated quarterly for seven years or until it reaches a $50,000 cap, Galloway said.
“It’s a good expansion project,” Galloway said.
The authority voted 5-0 to accept the incentive plan.
Frazier discussed a long-range plan for downtown Stillwater that would include a new marketing plan, partnership with the Stillwater Convention and Visitors Bureau and special events.
Frazier said she wants to use focus groups and surveys to learn what downtown merchants, property owners, shoppers and Oklahoma State University students want to see in downtown Stillwater.
“We want to take the district to the next level,” she said. “It has become a place where everyone has an opportunity to shop, dine, live and play. It has become such a great asset to the city of Stillwater.”
The focus groups and surveys will help the BID to create a new marketing plan that will attract potential businesses, focus on local residents and visitors and improve pedestrian traffic, she said.
“We are looking at doing some collaborative marketing,” she said. “We know we have some very similar target markets. If we work together we can spend less money in advertising and expand our exposure.”
Special events entice people to visit downtown, Frazier said, and will remain a key component of downtown marketing.
The district wants to have one strong event every quarter, Frazier said.
Downtown has evolved, Galloway said. Now, events can be moved off Main Street and those attending the event will migrate to Main Street businesses.
“As the growth continues, those venues can be over on the city’s block at Ninth and Duncan and feel like you are still in downtown,” Galloway said. “Five years ago, you would have felt like you were in some other neighborhood.”